Anzac spirit in chase for Masters
It was the ultimate show of Anzac spirit on a cold spring weekend in Upper Hutt.
With beanie firmly applied, Australia’s top amateur golfer Travis Smyth and his five compatriots got a warm reception from their Kiwi mates at Royal Wellington.
Next month, the half-dozen Australians, 10 New Zealanders and the best from Japan, China, Korea and Thailand will tee off at leafy Heretaunga for amateur golf’s biggest prize: direct entry to next year’s Masters Tournament at Augusta and the Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Smyth, 22, is ranked 15th in the world, was a US Amateur quarterfinalist and is fresh from victory against the pros in the Northern Territory PGA Championship and he’s the early favourite for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
More so now, after the Australians got the guided tour from half the New Zealand team: Wellington reps Daniel Hillier and Kerry Mountcastle, along with Ryan Chisnall, Mark Hutson and Luke Brown.
‘‘We feel very fortunate that they want to do that. By the same token we have Golf Australia camps and events which these guys get access to,’’ Smyth said.
A year ago in Incheon, South Korea, Australia went one-two with US Amateur champion Curtis Luck beating compatriot Brett Coletta, with New Zealand’s Luke Toomey third in the 118-strong field.
This time the Aussies have four in the world’s top-40 while US-based Nick Voke (46) is the highest-ranked New Zealander, with Chisnall (82) and Hillier (98) the others inside the top-100.
As host nation, New Zealand get 10 spots and their familiarity with the course gives them a generous leg-up.
With trans-Tasman officials having mapped the greens 11 months ago, before the players played at Heretaunga on Sunday and Monday, the Anzacs will be the only ones with prior knowledge before the field assembles for the October 26-29 tournament. It’s the big show: run like a PGA Tour event and heavily backed by the Masters and Royal and Ancient Golf Club (who run the Open Championship).
‘‘This, the US Amateur and the British Amateur are the three majors of amateur golf. We all feel like the Asia-Pacific is probably our best chance of playing at The Masters,’’ Smyth said.
Travis Smyth is the early favourite for the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship at Royal Wellington.